The Impeachment Clock

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff speaks during a media briefing after a House vote approving rules for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, October 31, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Time is not on Adam Schiff’s side.

Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry is incoherent. Given the impossibility of a senatorial conviction, the only strategy is to taint the president with the brand of impeachment and weaken him in the 2020 election.

Yet Schiff seems to have no sense that the worm has already turned. Far from tormenting Trump and the Republicans by a long-drawn-out Schiff extravaganza, Trump’s supporters are beginning to feel that the longer the farce, the better the optics. Polls show that Trump is almost back to where he was in popularity when Schiff unleashed his late-September Ukrainian caper. And the point, after all, was again to drive down Trump’s popularity and render him politically inert.

From the day Schiff reemerged after his licking his wounds in hibernation, following the Mueller implosion, his efforts have insidiously gone downhill. Once Trump released the transcript of his July 25th call with Ukrainian president Zelensky, the nation learned that the Schiff’s gold-standard whistleblower was no such thing. Instead, he seems a rank partisan and sloppy leaker whose machinations and background are already boomeranging back on those who put him up to this present circus.

Schiff never expected that Trump would release a classified transcript of his own presidential call — Democrats expected secrecy and coverup, much as the deep-state intelligence-agency miscreants acted unethically and illegally on the presumption that Hillary Clinton would be easily elected and their dishonest efforts would be rewarded and kept quiet.

One of the strangest developments of the opening inquiry was Schiff’s own doubling-down admission that he didn’t know the name of the whistleblower. After previously lying that neither he nor his staff had contact with the whistleblower (“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower”) — he now ups the ante, apparently assuming that neither his staff nor the whistleblower will testify under oath.

Schiff’s astounding assertion that he doesn’t know the whistleblower’s name is as hard to believe as Robert Mueller’s own congressional testimony that he was not familiar with Fusion GPS — the font of the entire Steele dossier that itself fueled the collusion fantasy that led to Mueller’s own appointment.

Unlike the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, Schiff has no special prosecutor’s finding of felonious presidential behavior. Instead, he has a veritable exoneration from the failure of the ill-starred special counsel to find either collusion or actionable obstruction of such a non-crime.

Mueller was tasked with investigating Russian collusion and related matters in the 2016 election. Twenty-two months, over 20 lawyers and investigators and $35 million later, Mueller folded his tent without criminal referrals or findings of presidential crimes, and then he more or less embarrassed the entire investigation in an enfeebled, deer-in-the-headlights congressional testimony.

At this point, the country would not put up with yet another special prosecutor entrusted to investigate “Ukrainian collusion.” They would know the post-Mueller drill in advance: A Washington “wise man” icon would follow the Mueller script of finding no such crime, while ignoring quite considerable crimes, with the Bidens now playing the role of Hillary Clinton’s bought-and-paid-for Christopher Steele.

Most of Schiff’s witnesses in this inquiry were incoherent in the same critical sense: They never cite knowledge of presidential crimes but feel that Trump is dangerous, given their own disagreements with his supposedly reckless policy. And their chagrin in the end boils down to their empty charges that Trump is appeasing Russia at the expense of the Kurds and Ukraine. Apparently their supposedly superior ancestries, pedigrees, and education should supersede the foreign-policy prerogatives of the president of the United States.

Yet our shocked State Department experts somehow cannot explain why they were abjectly silent during the Obama administration when the “reset” proved to be virtual appeasement of Vladimir Putin; when Obama on a hot mic both offered the Russians a disturbing quid pro quo and then followed through on it; when Obama declined to send arms to Ukraine; and when Vice President Joe Biden took over as point man for Ukrainian policy only to leverage U.S. aid in exchange for Ukraine’s ceasing investigations of corruption that eventually would have targeted his own morally compromised son.

And why would these career experts be outraged by the Trump administration that at last fulfilled their wildest agendas: ending the reset, upping sanctions against Russians, killing hired Russian thugs in Syria, pulling out of the warped missile agreement with Russia, increasing American and NATO defense expenditures, pumping more oil to lower world prices to the detriment of Russia, and arming Ukraine?

What would have been the reaction in 2012 had an anonymous Bush holdover at the Obama National Security Council gone to the IG — but only after first consulting secretly with the staff of Devin Nunes — to claim third-hand knowledge of a confidential Obama phone call to Russia’s President Medvedev? The Bush-era whistleblower, a protégé of John Bolton and Dick Cheney, would then have claimed that he was told by an anonymous NSC leaker that Obama in the call had confirmed his prior hot-mic, quid pro quo promise to drop missile defense in Eastern Europe if Putin would in return give “space” to Obama before the 2012 election — with “space” perhaps defined as the Russians keeping quiet and making Obama’s foreign policy seem successful in the run-up to Election Day. Would there have been impeachment proceedings against Obama? Would Adam Schiff have pleaded to keep the “whistleblower’s” identity secret?

Most significantly, Schiff is now working against the clock.

Each day closer to the November 2020 election is one day nearer to allowing the American people to vote on their first-team president. There is no Nixonian or Clintonian argument that without impeachment, a second-term president could not be brought to heel. Schiff has essentially decided to abort the early 2020 campaign and substitute in its place his star-chamber impeachment.

Day-by-day Schiff’s ginned-up media hysteria has created a virtual news blackout of the Democratic presidential front-runners. We are well into the 2020 campaign and the public knows almost nothing about these would-be presidents other than that in toto they are a strange bunch. The media-starved peripheral candidates such as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker will go the way of the suffocated Beto O’Rourke until someone or something yanks Schiff offstage.

Each day that is wasted is another day that the new House majority did not, as it promised, address substantive issues. Since January 2018, it has not talked of infrastructure, recalibrated trade deals, budgetary compromises, drug prescription pricing, or anything else other than one iteration after another of attacking Trump. Certainly, if they really believed that Trump was an incompetent buffoon, the better strategy would have been to step aside, let him ruin the economy, and then run in 2020 against his incompetence.

Ironically, the longer Trump survives, the more likely he’ll grow stronger and dominate the news at the expense of the progressive front-runners. To get attention back from Schiff, the front-runners must become even shriller and crazier — from Bernie Sanders’s declaring an end to all deportations to Elizabeth Warren’s dreaming up an unhinged multi-trillion-dollar wealth tax to pay for “Medicare for all.” What will happen when these barnstorming senators are trapped in an impeachment farce in the Senate?

Schiff also knows that voters have an upcoming rendezvous with the reports of Michael Horowitz and John Durham. If sane, Schiff should hurry up; otherwise James Comey or Andrew McCabe might be indicted and smother his narrative. Horowitz is likely to have more criminal referrals, and Durham might well proceed with indictments — at precisely the time that Schiff is lecturing the nation that its president is a criminal who mysteriously was exonerated by a special counsel.

Schiff is also risking Trump exhaustion — the magical point at which the public tires of the serial psychodramas of the voting-machine ruse, the Electoral College–subversion gambit, removal of Trump by the 25th Amendment, the Logan Act, the emoluments clause, Mueller, Stormy, Cohen, the tax returns, recession, and now Ukraine — seasoned with 90 percent negative media coverage and celebrity outbursts about blowing up, decapitating, or incinerating Trump. In other words, the more Schiff pushes these serial whines, the closer he gets to Election Day, and the more the people shrug and think, “Enough already, just vote.”

Voters are also human. Schiff believes that the more chaos he creates, the more the collective public will fall into a fetal position, cover its ears, and scream, “Make Trump just go away.” But the opposite is more likely: At some point people sympathize not with the stoners of the declared public enemy, but with the stoned target who is ripped and bloodied by the mob. In the final scene from Braveheart, the once-hated Scottish hero William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is stretched, drawn and quartered, and variously tortured before an English crowd

that’s hissing and calling for more blood — up until a point.

Once the kings’ torturers exhaust their repertoire of savagery, even the anti-Scottish crowd gets repelled and begins yelling “Mercy!”

So too, with Trump. After the Dems decided to wage a three-year-long presidential abortion, and attacked Trump’s wife, children, family, businesses, and associates, 24/7, the public has begun finally to wonder at what point enough is enough. People will begin to think the target of unhinged vituperation must be doing something right to warrant such unattractive enemies, and that he is therefore worthy of empathy.

It is perhaps cruel but nonetheless accurate to note that the more Adam Schiff, who has replaced AOC as the new face of the Democratic party, goes before the cameras, the more the transitory attention goes to his head, the more he lies, habitually proves unethical, and becomes morally compromised. And the more the public becomes repulsed by him.

In just this latest impeachment iteration, Schiff has already lied about his staff’s prior contacts with the “whistleblower,” read into the record a complete rewriting of the presidential call transcript, and leaked supposedly secret statements from his partisan witnesses. In other words, the more one sees and hears Adam Schiff, the more one is likely to dislike him — including his own party’s presidential candidates.

Nancy Pelosi wants to wrap up impeachment as soon as possible before the debates resume in earnest and the primaries start, before the Horowitz and Durham reports, before the bored public wonders where exactly is the smoking gun, and before Trump’s polls get into the high forties. But mostly she just wants to get the off-putting Schiff off the national stage and to end his career as the icon of current progressivism.

When Democratic inquisitors are reduced to lecturing the nation that “hearsay can be much better evidence than direct” testimony, and when Adam Schiff looks into the cameras and swears he has no idea who the whistleblower is, then it’s time to pack up the circus and leave town.

 

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NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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